What to Know
- Michael Cohen has been asking a federal judge in Los Angeles to delay Stormy Daniels' case after FBI agents raided his home and office
- Cohen will assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination "in connection with all proceedings in this case," he wrote
- Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Cohen's filing was a "stunning development."
President Donald Trump's personal attorney said Wednesday he will assert his constitutional right against self-incrimination in a civil case brought by a porn actress who said she had an affair with Trump, a move the president says "doesn't have to do with me."
Michael Cohen has been asking a federal judge in Los Angeles to delay Stormy Daniels' case after FBI agents raided his home and office earlier this month, seeking records about a nondisclosure agreement Daniels signed days before the 2016 presidential election.
Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, has said she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and has sued to invalidate the confidentiality agreement that prevents her discussing it. She's also suing Cohen, alleging defamation.
Cohen sought to delay the civil case 90 days after the raid, arguing that his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination may be jeopardized if legal proceedings aren't stayed.
But last week, U.S. District Judge S. James Otero said there were "gaping holes" in Cohen's request for a delay.
Cohen's lawyer argued in court last week that because the criminal investigation overlaps with issues in the lawsuit, his client's right against self-incrimination could be adversely impacted because he won't be able to respond and defend himself.
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Trump defended his personal lawyer Thursday morning on "Fox and Friends," saying that Cohen is "a good person" who "represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal" and "did absolutely nothing wrong."
Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, responded to Trump's admission that Cohen represented him in the Daniels case, calling it "another gift from the heavens."
"It's a hugely damaging admission by the president because, according to what he said on Air Force One a few weeks ago, he didn't know anything about the agreement, he didn't know anything about the payment," Avenatti said Thursday on MSNBC. "Michael Cohen went off and did this on a lark, and Mr. Trump knew nothing about it. We now find out that that's bogus."
Trump continued his defense of Cohen, arguing that he is actually more of a businessman, and his decision to assert his Fifth Amendment rights doesn't have to do with their dealings together as lawyer and client.
"Let me just tell you that Michael is in business; he's really a businessman," Trump said. "Probably the big thing is his business. I've been told that I'm not involved."
Trump went on to downplay Cohen's role in his legal representation, saying that Cohen does a "tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal work.
In a court filing on Wednesday, Cohen said that FBI agents had seized "various electronic devices and documents in my possession" which contain information about the $130,000 Daniels was paid as part of the agreement. Agents also seized communications with his lawyer, Brent Blakely, about the civil case, Cohen said.
Daniels has offered to return the $130,000 and argues the agreement is legally invalid because it was only signed by her and Cohen, not by Trump.
Cohen will assert his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination "in connection with all proceedings in this case," he wrote.
Daniels' attorney, Michael Avenatti, said Cohen's filing was a "stunning development."
"Never before in our nation's history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President," he tweeted.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin in Washington contributed to this report.